« PreviousContinue »
home, and that they understand little about many of the most useful, or best things in our country. The eastern MANNERS and Customs of old times
be explained from two sources.—1. From the ancient writers of other nations, who have described the customs of former times. Their works contain many passages which confirm the accounts given in the Bible, and nothing which really contradicts them, when carefully examined. Learned men have clearly proved this. Nor should we forget, that a great part of the Old Testament was written many
hundred years before
any other book now in existence.-2. Much, also, may be learned from modern travellers, who have visited the places mentioned in the Bible, and other countries of the east. People live there now very much in the same manner as they did in the times about which we read in the Bible, which were from two to six thousand years ago. The books of eastern travellers now are full of such statements, many are given in this volume, but they are only a small part of what might have been stated. Perhaps some travellers have gone too far, and mention as illustrations of the Bible what are not really such.
Also the RITES and CEREMONIES of the Jewish religion are too often carelessly passed by, from ignorance as to many of the particulars, which are very interesting when explained by the customs of the ancient Jews, or by the accounts of their own writers who lived about the time of our Saviour, which relate additional circumstances.
The Laws and Polity, or the political institutions of the Jews, contain much that is very important to be known, but which is not noticed by common readers; here, also, a knowledge of the manners and customs is of much use. All these things will be found interesting when inquired into. The design of this volume is to induce the reader so to study his Bible; and all who read it should examine the texts noticed. It would have been easy to have referred to a great many other texts, but most who read this book can look at a Concordance, or, if young persons, it is a good exercise to examine for themselves, and thus to be led to search the Scriptures. For this reason, as well as to save space, the texts are seldom given at great length in this volume. If that had been done, the book would have been twice the size and cost, without any advantage in return, while any plan that prevents the examining of the whole Bible is by no means desirable.
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
OF THE JEWS AND OTHER NATIONS MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE.
TENTS. WHEN Adam and Eve were driven from Paradise, they did not find houses ready built; they might, probably, for a time, take shelter in a cave, though we read very early of Cain building a city, Gen. iv. 17. Their abodes would be improved by degrees. Jabal, the son of Lamech, is thought to have invented tents. He is called the “ father of such as dwell in tents," Gen. iv. 20.
All these dwellings were destroyed by the flood, Gen. vii. 19.
After the earth was dried, and Noah came out of the ark, he seems, for some time at least, to have lived in a tent, Gen. ix. 21. This sort of dwelling would be the easiest to make. Even now, tents are very common in the east, especially for travellers. But it was not long before men began again to build houses and cities, Gen. xi. 4, 5.
People also often lived in caves. They sometimes hollowed out rooms in the cliffs and rocks, to serve for concealment as well as for dwellings, Judg. vi. 2; Heb. xi. 38. David often hid himself in caves, 1. Sam. xxii. 1; 2 Sam. xxiii. 13. Such places may be seen even in England. Many of these caves and under-ground places are to be found in Egypt and the east; they are described by Stephens and others. Buckingham found a hundred people at one place in Arabia, living in caves or grottoes hollowed in the rock. Some of these excavations are very large, and have many rooms, But in general, people lived either in tents or houses.
The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, lived in tents while in the land of Canaan, as we read in the book of Genesis. They are spoken of, Heb. xi. 9, as "dwelling in tabernacles," that is, tents. The life of a traveller in the east still illustrates this text. One says “It is a life of constant dependence and faith; when the tent is struck in the morning, the traveller knows not where it will be pitched at noon or evening; whether it is to be beside the palms and springs of water, or in solitude and sand." The patriarchs had more than one tent, probably a considerable number, and the women lived separate, as is now the custom among the rich Arabs. Thus we read of Rebekah having Sarah's tent, Gen. xxiv. 67. The tents of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob, also were separate, Gen. xxxi. 33. Or the tent often is divided into two parts, one for the women, where they cook and attend to domestic concerns. Irby and Mangles describe them as retiring to that part after placing mats for the guests, and then preparing food as a matter of course.
The tents were generally put up under the shade of large trees. Abraham's tent was under a tree in the plains of Mamre, Gen. xviii, 1, 4; and Deborah, the prophetess, dwelt under a palm tree in Mount Ephraim, Judg. iv. 5. In the east, the people like to have trees near their dwellings, both for shade and shelter. From 1 Kings, iv, 25, we may conclude this was usual in the land of Judea, even when they lived in houses. The trees generally planted for this purpose were vines and fig-trees, which would grow up against the walls and over the roof, as they now do about our cottages. These trees supplied grapes and figs which
were used for food, and the branches of the vine that did not bear fruit were used for fuel to burn. This is referred to by Christ, John xv. 6, when he describes himself as the Vine, and his people as the fruitful branches; and those who do not love him, as the withered branches which were cast into the fire.
The tents of the Arabs usually are black, or of a very dark colour; the tents of Kedar were so in former times, Sol. Song, i. 5; a few are striped. The master of the family is often seen sitting in the door of the tent in the heat of the day, as is described Gen. xviii. 1. The tents are of all sorts, varying in size and shape according to the means of
the owner, from a mere cloth of goats' hair, camels' hair, or coarse wool, thrown over a few sticks, much worse than the gipsy tents in England, to large habitations divided into several rooms, separated by fine curtains. In the better tents, a curtain of needlework is hung at the door. A king of Persia had a tent made with cloth of gold and other expensive materials, that cost 150,0001.
The tents were fixed by stakes and cords, and could be enlarged by lengthening the cords, strengthening the stakes, and adding more coverings, Isa. liv. 2. The cords are fastened to pins driven in with a mallet, as in Jael's tent, Judg.iv. 21. Buckingham describes the tent of a sheikh supported by twenty-four poles. They are easily removed, the tent pins are plucked up, the curtains folded, the poles taken down, and, in a few minutes, some holes in the ground, a heap of ashes, and the marks of feet of men and beasts, and perhaps of camels' knees, are the only traces left of their habitations. When people travel, they always, if they can, fix their tents near some river, fountain, or well: see 1 Sam. xxix. 1; xxx. 21. The tents, particularly when many are near together, much enliven a prospect, as Balaam said Numb. xxiv. 5.
The Israelites, in the wilderness, lived in tents for forty years. Many of these were what we should call booths, made of the branches of trees. That they might remember this, the feast of tabernacles was to be kept. Read about it, Lev. xxiii. 39–42. Such a booth Jonah made, when he went and sat on the east side of Nineveh, to see what would happen to the city. Without some such shelter it is impossible to endure the hot mid-day sun of those countries. Thus the shepherds have their tents, Isa. xxxviii. 12, speedily and suddenly removed. If travellers have no tents, they put some of their garments upon sticks, and creep
under them; or get into the shade of a rock, or even pile up stones. Buckingham describes the effects of a storm as beating down all the tents of a large encampment, and many kids and lambs, and even infants, perishing from the exposure. Such a storm is described Isa. xxviii. 2, when à more secure covert than a tent was needful, Isa. iv. 6.
HOUSES. The houses of the rich were built with stone or bricks; but those of the poor were of wood, or more frequently of mud, as they are to this day in many parts of the east, and in some villages in England. Houses built of mud are not well fitted to withstand the torrents, which at times flow from the mountains of Palestine. This is alluded to by Christ, in Matt. vii. 26, 27. Shaw saw some houses fall after a shower of rain that lasted only two hours; a few years ago, between three and four hundred houses were washed down at Alexandria, in one night of storm and rain. Thieves also could easily dig or break through mud walls ; to which the Saviour refers, when he exhorts his disciples not to lay up treasures where thieves break through and steal. Such